Primary Care for Young Mammals



Wash all utensils, gloves and cages used with a 1:10 bleach/water solution.

  1. CHECK FOR INJURY OR SIGNS OF ILLNESS: Examine the animal for puncture wounds, lacerations, maggots and more serious injuries such as dislocations or broken bones. If an animal shows signs of paralysis, thick, yellow mucous discharge from nose or eyes, or convulsions are present, bring the animal immediately to your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary clinic for euthanasia.
  2. MAKE SURE THE ANIMAL IS WARM TO THE TOUCH: Young mammals cannot regulate their own body temperature. They need a heat source, either a hot water bottle or a heating pad on a low setting. Be sure you put the heat source under only half the cage so that the animal does not overheat. Initially, you can warm a baby mammal with your own body warmth (not directly on your skin) or immerse them in warm water for a few minutes (making sure to keep head out of water) and dry thoroughly.
  3. CHECK FOR DEHYDRATION: If skin tents up when you pinch it, or eyes are sunken, or if the animals seems listless, have your veterinarian administer (or show you how to administer) Ringers Solution subcutaneously (under the skin). If the young mammal is only slightly dehydrated or if you do not have access to Ringers you can give warm Pedialyte (found in the baby food section of the supermarket) or a well shaken mixture of one cup warm water and two tablespoons of Nutri-cal (found in Jeffers catalog or your vet or local pet store). If you choose to orally rehydrate young mammals this can best be done with a 1cc or 3cc oral syringe one drop at a time. Do not allow the animal to aspirate the fluids, feed very slowly. Most young mammals have been alone without their mother for some time before they are found and brought to a rehabilitator; most will need to be rehydrated before being placed on the appropriate formula. Dehydrated animals will not be able to digest formula without being properly rehydrated first. Wait several hours after rehydration before you attempt your first feeding. Tiny newborns should be placed in a small aquarium on top of a smooth towel or a thick piece of flannel. Use a small piece of flannel or smooth towel on top to fold over babies. Place half of aquarium over heating pad on low setting. Use a plastic pet carrier for larger babies.
    Feed Esbilac to young squirrels, opossums, chipmunks and cottontails. While wearing gloves, feed KMR to young raccoons, fox and skunks. Mix powder with warm water as directed or feed warmed canned formula. Add a pinch of Probios (beneficial live bacteria). Use a 1cc oral syringe for squirrels, opossums, cottontails and tiny raccoons and skunks. Use a 3cc oral syringe for larger raccoons and skunks. Slowly provide the animal with liquid until the stomach is well rounded. Be very careful that the animal does not aspirate the fluids into its lungs; feed one drop at a time. Baby mammals should be fed 3 or 4 times per day in evenly spaced feedings.
  5. MAKE SURE THE ANIMAL IS ELIMINATING WASTE ON ITS OWN: For the first few week of life, mothers of baby mammals lick their babies to stimulate defecation and urination, and they ingest theses materials to keep their nest sites clean and scent free as not to attract predators. You will need to stimulate the urethra and anus with your middle finger or a cotton ball moistened with warm water. This will need to be done before and after each feeding until you see the animal eliminating waste on its own.
  6. TRY TO GET ANIMALS EATING ON THEIR OWN AS SOON AS POSSIBLE ONCE THEIR TEETH START COMING IN: It makes sense that once a baby mammal’s teeth begin to emerge and when the baby is mobile enough to stand to eat that the mother will begin to discourage it from nursing and the baby will begin to venture out with mom for solid food. Weaning is never easy so we suggest easing into it slowly. For squirrels, begin to put formula in a shallow jar cap and leave pecans and walnuts in cage between feedings. For baby cottontails, do the same but substitute apples and clover for nuts. For skunks and opossums, start with soaked dry dog food, turkey baby food or canned cat food. For raccoons (the most challenging of juveniles) begin by adding some baby rice cereal and baby food bananas to their formula. Slowly add dry dog food, eggs, soft oatmeal cookies, bananas, apples and nuts.

Please call WIC for more information.
(203) 544-9913

Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way.

John Muir